Scrutinizing Certifications

Are U.S. avionics and aircraft risk assessment and certification processes flawed? The defects now evident in Boeing Dreamliner 787 commercial airliners are causing the public and safety professionals to question the efficacy of current methods.

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) officials investigating the cause of a short circuit in a Boeing Dreamliner 787 lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery are now looking into how a potentially defective and unsafe airborne power electronics system passed through the certification process.

“U.S. airlines carry about two million people through the skies safely every day, which has been achieved in large part through design redundancy and layers of defense,” explains NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. “Our task now is to see if enough–and appropriate–layers of defense and adequate checks were built into the design, certification, and manufacturing of this battery.”

The NTSB has learned that, during the 787 certification process, Boeing studied failures that could potentially occur within the battery as well as the effects those events could have on the battery. In tests to validate these assessments, Boeing engineers found no evidence of cell-to-cell propagation or fire, both of which occurred in the JAL event.

Shouldn’t modern tools and procedures used to validate and certify safety-critical hardware, software, and platforms have found and flagged these potential dangers well in advance of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) or another air traffic control body ever clearing a single Dreamliner 787 for takeoff? It’s a valid question, and one with only one acceptable answer to this geek’s mind. Yes.

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Posted February 28th, 2013, by

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About J. VanDomelen Mil/Aero Blog

J. VanDomelen holds a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems and myriad certifications from Microsoft, Cisco, and CompTia in varying facets of computer software, hardware, and network design and implementation. He has worked in the electronics industry for more than 12 years in varied fields, including advanced systems design of highly technical military and aerospace computer systems, semiconductor manufacturing, open source software development, hardware design, and rapid prototyping. J. VanDomelen Mil/Aero Blog

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